An Introverted Actress

Does Social Media Have A Place In Theatre?

Now that reviews are out for Heathers in UK newspapers, it’s extremely interesting to see a little battle commence in the minds of those who don't understand the dreaded world of SOCIAL MEDIA! Less so with journalists who seem to be embracing what Heathers is and this fresh, young face it's giving Musical Theatre, but more so with the traditional theatre-goers who are baffled when they find their seat is located next to a mallet wielding seventeen year-old dressed all in red. It's an odd battle between not wanting to give social media and the marketing that can be done upon it, any credit for the young audience it's bringing in because they think new fangled social media doesn’t have a place in traditional theatre...but then not knowing how else to explain the reaction shows like Heathers, Hamilton, Everybody's Talking About Jamie, etc are getting from young people! Nor can they explain how word is spreading so rapidly BEFORE reviews are even out! Of course, these shows are just good. They're solid in their script, score and symbolism but they're shows made for young, open minds and young, open minds often spread the word digitally. So, naturally people like me getting cast in these shows, “vloggers who are now pursuing musical theatre careers” *hard eye roll*, are getting the "blame" for all of the screaming, teenage fans that are packing out the stalls in old-school theatre's like Theatre Royal, Haymarket...but (one of my many) question(s) is, even if that was the case, is that so terrible? What makes me think some people do see it as something to be sneered at is when I hear terms like FanGirls and Teeny-Boppers being thrown around in a derogatory way. Don't get me wrong, the love for Heathers, in particular, far outweighs the few complaints we've had about the noise of the crowd, the fact that they've hired a "vlogger" in the leading role or the cosplaying kids but it's always entertaining and oh so fascinating to me when those few complaints do arise and it makes me wonder what's really at the heart of such snobbery.


Sure, my name is on the poster because I have a large online following and the marketing team are very clever! They thought maybe it’d help sell some tickets and they're very much in the ticket selling business! What really helps them out, though, is that once those tickets are sold, I can actually deliver the performance (and I say that with confidence in my ability rather than arrogance, however, I know those two often get confused when a female shows to know herself...!). I am, first and foremost, an actress. I've said it before but I'll say it again, making videos was something I started when I was unemployed and bored. YouTube was an accident whilst acting was the plan. However, the foundation for the name I have made for myself on YouTube, is my voice. All my early videos are covers of pop/musical theatre songs. If I was a YouTube make-up artist sensation turned musical theatre performer in the last three months then I would understand why there would be some scepticism about my name being on the poster but everything I do now and everything I have ever done has always been gearing towards one day, hopefully, leading a West End cast. It's not even like Heathers is my first theatre rodeo. I'm pretty sure I've earned my stripes. Les Mis, Chitty, Mary Poppins, Wind in the Willows, Les Mis and Chitty again as an adult and then Addams Family, all since the age of seven...come on, now. I've spent the last couple of weeks rolling my eyes very far into the back of my head each time someone likes to pretend I'm new to this theatre game and that only the number tagged onto my social media can explain why my name is emblazoned across the front of the theatre. However, let’s not pretend putting “names” on posters is new. It's not. Long before social media ever existed, the person who would pull in the crowd would always get top billing. What is new is people making those names for themselves via un-traditional means AKA the internet and that is where people get held up. What makes me laugh is that, if the Heathers team were specifically hell bent on just having a social media "name" to play Veronica, they definitely could have found someone far bigger and just as capable than silly ol' me! In the grand scheme of things, the name "Carrie Hope Fletcher" (or "Carrie Hayley Fisher" to the hosts of 2018's West End Live...) holds very little weight in the light of some other social media singers. I'm actually a little flattered that people seem to think that if it were all about getting a name, I would somehow be found at the top of that list! Let’s also not be too quick to give me, or even social media for that matter, any more credit than is actually due when it comes to the fan favourite and phenomenon that is Heathers The Musical


Heathers is Heathers. Long, long before I was involved, back in the USA, Heathers the Musical was always getting that solid, screaming, fan reaction. It's a cult show based on a cult movie! People were coming wielding their mallets long before I ever got to don the blue blazer. It just so happens that there seems to be a huge crossover between my audience and the Heathers audience because funnily enough, most of the Heathers fans here in the UK only heard about Heathers because they watched the famous bootleg of the off-broadway production that was posted on, you guessed it, YouTube! So, the people who would have bought tickets to Heathers at the Haymarket and screamed down the house at Veronica having sex with JD on stage anyway, just have that little bit more of a reason to scream now that I also happen to be playing Veronica. 


In my opinion, social media is one of the keys to the door to accessibility for theatre. More and more actors, from myself and my boyfriend Oliver Ormson who vlogs his audition processes, to Buckley and Paige who are currently vlogging their time backstage in Eugenius at The Other Palace, are jumping on the bandwagon. However, there's only so much us actors can/are allowed to do. Whilst production teams are setting up Twitter and Instagram accounts and letting its cast take over week by week, some are holding "fan events" in locations like The Theatre Cafe or even The Other Palace itself and there are ticket lotteries on iPhone apps where you can win cheap front row tickets for shows, it's still not quite enough to make theatre as accessible as it should be. Heathers has done incredibly well at trying to make sure there are a chunk of tickets for each performance that are affordable for its young audience and its social media game is STRONG but I think we're all hoping for a little more from London's Theatre as a whole. Hopefully, one day we'll see the potential it can reach.

xxx





10 comments

  1. Loved reading this Carrie, it's such a fascinating thing to think about. Agree with you that those attitudes come from a digital prejudice which is literally fear of the unknown.
    I'm actually about to start writing my honours dissertation on social media marketing's affect on theatrical audience demographics so this article is so helpful. If you would be keen to contribute I would love to discuss with you, but obviously no obligation whatsoever!

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  2. I completely agree with you! In the reviews that I’ve read, there seems to be a bit of a sneering, condescending overtime where the reviewer appears to be completely baffled about why Heathers: the musical is such a big success. But the thing is, while Heathers has themes that are universal (peer pressure, isolation, wanting to fit in etc), at least on the surface, this show is predominately for teenagers and young people. But teenagers and young people don’t write reviews for the evening standard or the guardian or whatever. It’s like when Ocean’s 8 came out and didn’t get the reviews they were hoping for - it’s because a higher proportion of film critics are men rather than women or non-binary etc.

    Besides, it seems a bit like you can’t win either way, because you get some older people who complain about “these teens always being on their phones” and not enjoying “traditional entertainment” like theatre, but when we DO come out to watch a show in the west end, it’s suddenly because a “YouTube” star has been “given” the role, rather than us coming out to watch the show because we love the show and we love the cast because of their previous work in musical theatre. Anyway, I’m rambling.

    TL/DR: more diversity in critics would be great. And don’t patronise young people.

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    1. *overtone, not overtime

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    2. totally agree! except to say that stuff that's "intended for" teenage audiences can be enjoyed by 29 year olds like me, and i know my mum would have loved it if she lived nearer london. the snobbery of some adults about "younger" content baffles me! xxx

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  3. I completely agree with your assessment about the traditional media not understanding social media - although if these so-called journalists did 10 seconds of research they would have found how long you've been in the theatre game (and that it came first) - but I can't help but think there's a lot more sexism involved here. In the same articles they refer to you as Tom's sister, which means exactly nothing to the casual musical theatre goer, and I wonder if they think that you're riding off the coattails of him as well as YouTube. Nobody says the same about Alfie Allen out of Game of Thrones, and the similarity is striking with those gender roles reversed. Good think is we know you're the real deal and smashing it every night because you're the best person for the job. :D

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  4. Your jobs (youtube and acting) are intrinsically intertwined, and you are always going to have people referring to both in reviews or press releases. Instead of complaining about it, embrace it! It's an advantage you have, and, as you point out, an intelligent marketing team works with it. You should do the same.

    Realistically, a good chunk of the audience at Heathers are there to see "CARRIE HOPE FLETCHER" in Heathers, not just Heathers. Same deal with Addams Family. Trying to deny that that's a real factor is silly. Sometimes, "vlogger-turned-actor" or "McFly's sister" is a trope used to try and draw in a new audience that may not be familiar with the show, but enjoyed McFly, or enjoy watching vlogs. Literally all it does is benefit you. Its distasteful to complain about it so vigorously.

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    1. The journos didn't read that info off the press release (cause it's not there) so why did they feel the need to include it? They lazily decided that the reason why Carrie was cast is to do with famous brothers and YouTube, and didn't even mention the (pretty big) West End roles Carrie has had before. That's the issue here. Like I said in my own comment above, you wouldn't see this treatment for a male actor.

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    2. dear anonymous,
      pretend you're an indian woman who gets hired for a job in a predominantly-white-and-male office, and maybe partly the reason is positive discrimination, but the main reason is because you're qualified for it. when you get there all your colleagues make jokes every day along the lines of "you're only here cause you fulfil our indian quota LOL" and when you complain they reply "hey! don't complain! you're here aren't you?? for god's sake just embrace it honestly women are so COMPLAINY"
      this has been a story by me

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  5. I heard about Heathers when I was looking through some Hamilton accounts on instagram. Someone posted a video of beautiful and I fell in love. So, when I found out it was coming to the UK, I knew I had to go. I have been watching your channel for a while and have always thought of you as an actress using youtube in your spare time.

    I don't think it's a bad thing that shows like Heathers, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen etc are bringing younger audiences to the theatre because it needed it. Theatre was never going to die but a fresh audience brings out new shows that could influence the way that theatre is seen as. Heathers has fans of a range of ages, it did before you took the role and it will after. Yes, you have a youtube audience but that doesn't take away any of your incredible talent and it certainly won't take away from the show.

    "Fangirls" is a strange term and is often seen as a bad thing. Youtubers and artists are known for having fangirls, but theatre has them too. People who love theatre will support the shows they love, if it is on broadway or the west end, or even if it's closed. These "fangirls" are what keep a show or youtuber going. If a show had no fans, it would fail.

    Social media is a big part of any "fandom", that's how the word is spread about shows, artists and youtubers. You are an actress, you have been since you were little. The fact you make youtube videos shouldn't effect your career or anyone's view on the shows you take part in.

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  6. Everybody's Talking About Jamie?

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